Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell Calls Out Role Under Darvin Ham: ‘Game Within the Game’

D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers star D’Angelo Russell has a usage problem.

It’s not that he’s necessarily looking for more attempts. Instead, Russell has an issue with how he has to come by those attempts within the Lakers’ offense.

“I’m in y’all space,” Russell said on “The Backyard Podcast” on January 10. “If I miss, y’all took me out the game. Ya’ll just took me out the game if I’m missing if it’s all I’m doing is catching and shooting. But if I’m getting to do what I know I can do … it allows me to get there.”

Russell is averaging his second-fewest attempts per 36 minutes of his career, per Basketball Reference. But he specifically wants more pick-and-roll opportunities.

“I get into my flow state in a pick-and-roll when it comes to the game,” Russell said. “If I can tap into pick-and-roles, and recognize how they guard me, it allows me to control the game because I can get to what I know is working or might not work. It’s like playing a game within the game.”

Russell is one of the more productive players in the pick-and-roll.

Russell opened the season as the starting point guard. Head coach Darvin Ham moved him to the bench amid his and the team’s struggles, culminating in a four-game losing streak.

He was shooting 37.5% from the floor and 27.5% from beyond the arc over his last eight games before going to the bench. To his credit, he is shooting 40.5% from deep over his last seven appearances, all off the bench.

The biggest difference could be he is in lineups alongside LeBron James less often. He’s gone from 24.1 minutes per game alongside James over the first 25 games to 11.9 minutes per game over those last seven appearances for Russell, per

Russell’s usage rate went from 22.2% in 25 games as a starter to 23.1% in seven games as a reserve.

“I’m in my space,” Russell said. “I ain’t just catching and shooting.”

Russell is not the only guard who has been at odds with Ham through these early struggles. Austin Reaves has also pushed back on the idea that the Lakers’ injuries were a valid explanation for their struggles, which the head coach backed.

There have also been reports of growing discontent within the locker room. But Ham has touted the support of ownership, management, James and Anthony Davis.

The latter two even cosigned with Russell’s move to the bench.

D’Angelo Russell Better Off Ball This Season

Russell is 38.5% from downtown this season. He is shooting 43.1% on catch-and-shoot threes compared to 32.4% on pull-ups.

His effective field goal percentage is nearly 17% better in those situations.

He is also not a strong defender, something he has admitted and which goes against the ethos of the Lakers as a team. That was best illustrated by Ham’s attempt to surround James with four lengthy defenders in one of his lineup shuffles.

Russell re-signed on a two-year, $36 million contract this offseason and has been mentioned in trade rumors ever since. His trade value is down amid the trying season, though.

It might behoove him to maximize his opportunities, at least until his value rises.

Tyrese Haliburton ‘Makes Everyone Around Him Better’

Russell talked about facing the Indiana Pacers in the In-Season Tournament championship, which the Lakers won. He didn’t have a big scoring night, finishing with 13 points and going 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. But he was 5-for-10 in the paint and dished out seven assists.

He gave some notable praise to Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton.

I like dude,” Russell said of Haliburton, who finished the game with 20 points, 11 assists, one block, one rebound, and one steal. “Dude, he makes everybody around him better.”

Russell noted how much pressure the Pacers apply as an offense.

“You could see it, bro, how fast they get the ball out,” Russell said. “The thing is that they get the ball out so damn fast that there’s nobody running. Everybody’s still right next to each other in that transition period right there, and we’re like, ‘Alright, we got to get back.’ But everybody’s still right there. It’s just like a foot race. But I like the way they play.”